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Advanced Stats Class: Charlotte led the NBA in assist percentage

No team had more baskets come from assists, but this advanced stat doesn’t always translate into wins.

Miami Heat v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

The 2020-21 Charlotte Hornets finished the regular season with a 33-39 record and the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference. Let’s take a look back on the Hornets team advanced stats and better understand why their season went the way it did. This week we’ll break down the Hornets assist percentage.

Advanced stat: Assist percentage

What it measures: Percentage of a team’s field goals that were assisted.

Hornets result: 67.2%, 1st in NBA

The theme from the Hornets 2020-21 season comes down to three simple words: Caring is sharing.

No team in the NBA had more of their field goals coming as a result of a teammate’s assist than our very own Charlotte Hornets. James Borrego’s offensive schemes led to more than two-thirds of Charlotte’s buckets stemming from another player’s pass.

That said, teams with high assist percentages don’t always have winning records. There isn’t a tight correlation between this advanced stat and deep postseason runs. The Hornets had the best assist percentage in the league despite finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference. A few of the other lottery teams who did well in this category include the Warriors (3rd), Bulls (4th), Pacers (5th), and Timberwolves (6th). The only Top 6 team in assist percentage to make the playoffs was the Miami Heat, who finished second.

Based on this negative correlation between assist percentage and winning, my advice to Coach Borrego for next year is more isolation and one-on-one play with less ball movement. (Okay, just kidding).

It’s not surprising the Hornets had a strong year in the assists department. LaMelo Ball was a revelation in his rookie season and put up a team-leading 6.1 assists per game. Charlotte’s perimeter-heavy roster features other playmakers like Devonte’ Graham (5.4 APG), Terry Rozier (4.2 APG), and Gordon Hayward (4.1 APG). When healthy, some Hornets lineups had four legitimate assist guys on the floor.

This bodes well for the Hornets future. With teams like Charlotte who are on the fringe of being a playoff team it’s easy for us as fans to just look at the weaknesses that need to be shored up, like the Hornets glaring lack of an inside presence. But teams also need to lead with their strengths, and playmaking is an area Charlotte can build around.

The Hornets have the playmakers. The goal next year will be to have this strength of playmaking translate into more victories.